Program turns anti-analysis tools against the malware

Posted by   Virus Bulletin on   May 14, 2013

Users cautioned to be wary of a false sense of security.

Could you defeat VM-aware malware by making your system aware of VM-aware malware?

Tricks to frustrate researchers and make automatic analysis more difficult are a common feature of today's malware. One such trick is to make the malware 'VM-aware': it won't run if it detects that it is being executed in a virtual environment.

Two researchers at Rapid7, the company behind the Metasploit tool, have attempted to turn this trick on its head and use it against the malware. They have written a small proof-of-concept program that creates a number of registry keys, files and directories and starts some processes - all of which make it look as if the machine on which the program is running is, in fact, a virtual environment and that a popular debugger is being used.

While, as the researchers readily admit, this is by no means a new idea, it is a nice one and could work against many of the larger malware outbreaks. It is part of the general idea of 'security through obscurity', which also includes running services on non-standard ports, or using non-default directory names for web tools like WordPress. If the obscurity is performed well enough, it could work against many automated threats.

But one should be wary of a false sense of security: malware would work just as well without the anti-analysis functionality. Malware authors may also start to include checks for tools like the one created by the researchers.

Cryptography experts commonly refer to Kerckhoff's principle: the idea that a cryptographic system should be secure, even if everything about it (except for the key) is known to the attacker. This applies here as well: the tools could prevent some malware from infecting your machine, and that would of course be a good thing, but you should still act as if you are just as vulnerable.

Posted on 14 May 2013 by Martijn Grooten



Latest posts:

VB2019 paper: DNS on fire

In a paper presented at VB2019, Cisco Talos researchers Warren Mercer and Paul Rascagneres looked at two recent attacks against DNS infrastructure: DNSpionage and Sea Turtle. Today we publish their paper and the recording of their presentation.

German Dridex spam campaign is unfashionably large

VB has analysed a malicious spam campaign targeting German-speaking users with obfuscated Excel malware that would likely download Dridex but that mostly stood out through its size.

Paper: Dexofuzzy: Android malware similarity clustering method using opcode sequence

We publish a paper by researchers from ESTsecurity in South Korea, who describe a fuzzy hashing algorithm for clustering Android malware datasets.

Emotet continues to bypass many email security products

Having returned from a summer hiatus, Emotet is back targeting inboxes and, as seen in the VBSpam test lab, doing a better job than most other malicious campaigns at bypassing email security products.

VB2019 paper: We need to talk - opening a discussion about ethics in infosec

Those working in the field of infosec are often faced with ethical dilemmas that are impossible to avoid. Today, we publish a VB2019 paper by Kaspersky researcher Ivan Kwiatkowski looking at ethics in infosec as well as the recording of Ivan's…

We have placed cookies on your device in order to improve the functionality of this site, as outlined in our cookies policy. However, you may delete and block all cookies from this site and your use of the site will be unaffected. By continuing to browse this site, you are agreeing to Virus Bulletin's use of data as outlined in our privacy policy.